Mankind has proved to be adaptable at least enough to survive as one of nature’s multitude species. However there are warning signs that for the long term all is not well in our environment. As one small contribution to a ‘rooted in nature movement’ we should consider the gardener as a key player and influencer.
Lest we forget nature is essential to provide our current and future sustenance, health and wellbeing. Food and shelter are axiomatic to the survival of the human race and us as individuals. In a small way gardeners can root each of us in nature and provide a significant contribution to our understanding and appreciation of our natural surrounds. Enough of the overview now a few words on a micro perspective.
Helping Nature One Potato at a Time
The hippocratic oath has a useful phrase ‘first do no harm’. Thinking about this in the garden can be a good starting point. Consider e,xcess chemical use, limited native species, plastics galore, food mile products failure to consider cause and effect.
Helping nature should help the gardener and local environment. There are many healing, mood enhancing and medicinal plants to grow beyond the humble potato. Colourful and scented plants are just some examples.
Designing and operating a garden in a ‘rooted in nature’ manner is very therapeutic helping develop emotional and wellbeing. Calming water features and contemplation space may be inspirational for mind, body and soul.
Cop hold of these gardeners tips designed for the upcoming Cop26 summit on the climate
Grow and eat your own produce.
If you have the space fruit is my favourite. It can be eaten fresh or stored, preserved, frozen or made into jam
If you are short of space you can grow salad and bean sprouts in the kitchen on a windowsill.
Potatoes can be ready 9 months of the year. Try a mixture of earlies, second earlies, main crop, salad potatoes and special varieties. I plant some in late summer to have new potatoes ready for Christmas.
Green leaved veg take up space, the more the better, but root crops give a good yield even in confined space.
If you are adventurous you can eat many berries from shrubs and hedge rows but check them out for toxicity.
There are many alcoholic drinks you can brew at home I even have a ginger beer plant.
Use no chemical insecticides, live and let live.
Use no chemical fungicides, find a natural alternative
Good husbandryÂ helps control problems and maintain fertility
Rotate your vegetable crops between legumes, brassicas, onion familyÂ then potato & tomatoes
The tops of young nettles can be cooked and taste like spinach.
There are edible flowers like nasturtiums to try as well
Plan to store excess fruit and vegetables but be wary about lettuce and cabbage that do not keep.
Arrange a swap system with other gardeners to share seeds, seedlings and excess produce.
Collect rain water at every opportunity.
Tap water isn’t free and is not as good. It is treated and pumped around.
Water veg when they start to flower to increase the crop.
Do not let veg get short of water as they will run to seed early and stop producing
Don’t water lawns during a drought, they will recover.
In a drought make some water available for birds and insects.
Watering the leaves of peas and runner beans helps set a good crop
Collect seed from your crops to sow for next year. You don’t need to buy new each year.
Be frugal and conscious of the negative impact your gardening actions may create.
Be frugal and conscious of the positive impact your gardening actions may have.
Still no complaints on the volume of flowers over a long period after plenty of deadheading and a bit of liquid feed. The pot was quite large so I put a wick through the drain hole and stood the pot on a big saucer to provide this heavy drinker with water.
The same plant late in the day with under light conditions
A weed is a plant that has no intention of growing in rows.
Potato peelers and apple corers makeÂ useful weeding tools. Also I like home made wooden wodgers and splodgers for compost compressing.
I haveÂ become a fan of raised beds for vegetables. The added benefit of less bending encourages me to give more effort to plants. If retaining with boards rather than blocks or sleepers pay attention to firm pegs.
Consider reuse and repurpose for use in the garden including pop bottle, glass jars and old packaging. Even cardboard will compost with greenery to produce friable soil.
After shredding the branches a Christmas tree trunk can be repurposed as a sturdy support or stake
Thinnings of veg seedlings should be destroyed as the odour they give off attracts pests
Put crushed egg shells under sweetpeas to increase the yield
Pinch out plants that tend to grow long and spindly.
Up North we have the benefit of many keen dahlia growers and exhibitors. Better than that we have the national dahlia society (NDS) trials at Golden Acre park in Leeds and here is the video from this year.
Winning back Dahlias as friends progressively over the last decade we now have some of the best garden plants and some showy cut flowers from a cutting garden.
My Lessons in 2021
I grew only from saved tubers not tubers left in the ground over winter. My worry was damp not frost.
This method worked well when I started off the overwintered tubers in the same garage environment for potting up.
I got lots of extra plants that I was able to give to friends and neighbors.
Five top notch plants were grown in large pots and gave a ‘stonking display’. The last to tire, an orange pom pom is just about finished at the end of October.
The roots and tubers I lifted this week had not yet been frosted. I have still many plants in flower and when frosted I will need the time later.
The tubers and roots did not grow very deep and I hope I wont have trouble dividing up the clumps and or taking shoot cuttings.
After a variable show from the small single tubers I had decided not to bother next year but they have come through in autumn with a blase of glory and earned a reprieve.
The recent history of my seed sowing is not a traditional gardeners tip more a recollection of my own gardening method or lack thereof. These seed sowing stories are neither best practice nor a road to success.
Allium Seedhead ready to Harvest
Sources of my seeds
I don’t like waste so I collect a lot of seed from existing plants. Sweet peas, poppies, calendula, aquliegia and legumes feature regularly. I have had recent success with growing yellow tree peony lutea from seeds. I used to collect wild seeds when on holiday or where I thought I could get away with doing so.
I buy more seed than I need or ever convert into plants. Salad and vegetable seed is usually a considered purchase as a result of previous success or catalogue recommendations. I am an impulse buyer of other seeds often for experiments or to try new flowers. I buy gardening magazines that have free seed packets on the cover.
I obtain seed from societies such as the RHS, cyclamen or alpine seed schemes. I haven’t found anyone local with whom to swap seeds.
Old stock of previous seasons remnant seeds (kept in an airtight tin) last longer than expected particularly tomato and salad crops. I don’t worry about fertility, if they germinate it is a bonus.
I suppose my garden benefits most from self seeders although many are weeds or unwanted specimens.
Reasons For Seed Sowing
My prime seed sowing is for vegetables.
Flower sowing is usually to meet an aspiration for shock and awe from the results. Seldom achieved but fun to attempt.
Some I sow intending to obtain more cut flowers but only really successfully with sweet peas which I recommend as well worth the effort.
I silly reason for buying them is because they are cheap. A local garden center treats them as a loss leader and all year they are 50% of the packet price. I buy more than I need and sow wastefully. I did well this year on a variety pack of sunflowers.
If I want perennials or gap fillers like Lupins I will try seed even though it may work out more economical to buy plants.
I have just returned from Ilkley Moor (and I wasn’t courting Mary Jane). I was tramping through shoulder high bracken that was thriving after the recent rain and the lack of competition at lower levels. Bracken are aÂ coarse fern noted for their large, highly divided leaves (ferns on the other hand only have two divisions per leaf to create the arching fronds).
Bracken spreads by means of underground roots that pop up new fronds and from spores. Living near the moor I have several uninvited clumps in the garden. This type of encroachment is damaging for farmers and allotments and one of several problems of bracken. It is poisonous to humans plus most animals and can be a host for ticks. So I think that answers the question and it should be hardy ferns for your garden!
Ferns for ‘where the sun seldom shines’ grow in 10,000 species of which only 50 are hardy in the UK. Species of different sizes, shapes and colours can be grown together. Give each enough space so the fronds do not overlap. Spleenworts or Asplenium are related to hartstongue ferns
I have been reading the Penguin Encyclopedia of Gardening which aims to provide ‘….an explanation of words used in a technical sense in a horticultural context in the UK and USA.’ Set out as an A to Z this resulting post, missing a thousand definitions, is unlikely to rank highly with search engines.
The separation of a leaf or fruit from it’s stem. Most notable as a deciduous tree sheds its leaves in autumn. Two layers of cells are formed to facilitate this process, an abscission layer and a corky tissue layer. The corky layer cuts off the food supply to the fruit or leaf and protects the the wound formed when the drop occurs.
A botanical termÂ referring to a flower having floral parts that are capable of division into essentially symmetrical halves by only one vertical or longitudinal plane passing through the axis. Examples includeÂ Peas , Snapdragons and Orchids.
The biggest butterfly in my garden is undoubtedly me the gardener. Whilst working on the beds or landscape I can flit from task to task or pause and forget what I intended doing. Even with ‘to do’ lists at the starts of the day I complete very few and add onÂ many supplementary things instead. The garden’s requirements take precedent as I flit about with spade or watering can but I also ‘butterfly’ in another key direction.
Over the years my preference for plant or species come in and out of fashion and I favour certain groups for a few seasons and then move on or more specifically move off. I think of these as my specialties but in truth I don’t specialise and never really learn or attain the best results before changing. It is more a case of the garden will be greener and my horticultural pleasure multiplied by variety and change.
Flitting about in this manner has led me to collect books on specific species in a vain attempt to excel. To this end I often join a specialist society for a period of time that currently includes;Â the National Auricular and Primula, Cactus, Cyclamen, as well as RHS and AGS (alpine garden society). Added to this are my memberships of local clubs and societies where my enthusiasm last for about 5 years before I move on.
Current and Past Specialties
Rhododendron and deciduousÂ Azaleas
Patio and miniature Roses and Rambler varieties.
Carnations and Dianthus
Primroses and Polyanthus
Daisy Compositae family of 30,000+ species
Soft fruit and apple trees
Shorter lived interest in Heuchera, Ivyies, African violets, Cistus,